The Legend of the S.S. Ourang Medan

We’ve all come across stories of ghost ships and death ships: The Flying Dutchman, Mary Celeste, and so on… However, (in my opinion) none really compare to the nature of the story I’m about to tell you. That is, the legend of the S.S. Ourang Medan.


According to widely circulated reports, in June 1947, multiple ships traversing along the Strait of Melacca picked up on SOS distress signals. The message was as simple as it was disturbing:

“All officers including captain are dead, lying in chartroom and bridge. Possibly whole crew dead”.

What followed was a series of undecipherable morse code and a tomb-like silence after a grim final message:

“I die”.


These distress signals were picked up by two American ships alongside British and Dutch listening posts. The men manning the posts were able to triangulate the position of the signal at the location of the S.S. Ourang Medan. An American Merchant ship, the Silver Star set course towards the ship in response to the urgent SOS. Within hours, the ship caught sight of the incapacitated ship, bobbing up and down hauntingly on the waves of the sea. When nearby, there was no sight of life on deck so the Silver Star decided to dispatch a party to investigate. Little did they know that they were going to confront a living nightmare.

Once on board, the crew quickly realised that the distress signal wasn’t an exaggeration. The deck was littered with corpses; with their eyes and mouths wide open, arms out, faces twisted with the anguish of horror and agony. It is said that even the ships dog was dead, frozen into a haunting grimace. The captain’s remains were discovered on the Bridge, the communications office was still at his post, his fingertips resting on the telegraph. According to reports, all the corpses shared the same wide-eyed expressions on their faces. The cause is still unsolved, reports state that there was no evidence of foul play or damage to the ship – just a ghastly cold chill consuming the atmosphere.

Upon making their way back to the Silver Star, the crew witnessed smoke billowing from the S.S. Ourang, the boarding party were able to make it to safety just before the S.S. Ourang mysteriously exploded. The ship was lost to the sea, and became a part of the realm of maritime legends and mysterious.


As far as what happened to the ship and how it happened, nobody knows. However, if someone does know the truth about it, then there not coming forward. While it may not be as famous as other ghost ship stories that are circulating, it is just as terrifying and mysterious.